Mark Vandenberg has always enjoyed writing parodies, dating back to his days as a grade 12 student at Surrey (B.C.) Christian School when he created “Shakespeare for Dummies” in English class. His most current creation, “Hunger Games: The Musical,” recently finished a run at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, a local showcase for independent theatre, where it played to sold-out audiences.
Vandenberg wrote the musical parody of the popular futuristic fiction series authored by Suzanne Collins for his drama class at Surrey Christian School, where he is now a teacher. He is a member of Hope Community Christian Reformed Church.
Vandenberg said he was drawn to the story of the Hunger Games series. “After watching the film, I felt this franchise was ripe for parody. But just making it a comedy did not seem to go far enough. Making it a musical seemed wildly inappropriate and very funny,” he explained.
The musical, which uses current pop songs with altered lyrics, caught the attention of Vandenberg’s friend Frank Nickel, senior business manager at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver. Nickel felt the production was a perfect fit for the Vancouver Fringe Festival. A few tweaks to update the songs and pop culture references resulted in a hit show that has been getting rave reviews. Vandenberg’s story was recently featured in the Vancouver Sun newspaper.
“The entire production was incredibly clever and witty,” said fellow teacher Colin Bandstra of Ladner (B.C.) Christian Reformed Church. “Each song was crammed full of great jokes and Mark’s creativity shone through.”
Vandenberg, who has also written sketches and monologues for churches, feels that it’s important for Christians to be able to appreciate the culture we live in and to try to make change from within. “My Hunger Games parody celebrates the exciting tale of strength and sacrifice while also commenting on class systems, bullying, and media saturation,” he said. “My hope is that those who watch my plays see people and concepts from a different point of view and that they dig a bit deeper than the surface level bells and whistles.”